Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan Test skipper announced that the series against West Indies will be his last in international cricket. Already having bowed out of the 50-over format, the veteran decided it was time to quit the longer format of the game, which resulted in calls for Sarfraz Ahmed taking over the reins of the Test side too. But, that is for later. Sarfraz’s focus will first be on the upcoming three-match One-Day International series against West Indies that will kick-off in Guyana on Friday (April 7) – his first as Pakistan’s full-time one-day captain.
Given the nature of the unpredictability of the two sides, as history suggests, this one-day series could be no different. After all, it was rather evident in the recently-concluded four-match Twenty20 International series that a new-look Pakistan took 3-1 after some grave twists and turns that the series had on offer. What adds spice to the series is that West Indies have not beaten a side in a bilateral series other than Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Ireland since winning against New Zealand in their backyard in 2012. While that could provide the hosts enough motivation, Pakistan could hold onto the stat as a confidence boost, as both teams seek a rise in rankings which would aid direct qualification for the World Cup 2019.
Sarfraz would want to prove his case as skipper in this series, validating calls for him to lead across all formats. He already proved his prowess in the T20I series, with the attribute of fearlessness coming through, when he handed the ball to Shadab Khan, the newbie, at vital stages. The legspinner finished with ten wickets in the series as did Hasan Ali – both of who will be crucial to Pakistan’s one-day campaign, given the form they are in. Kamran Akmal will be the other focal point, after returning to the ODI scene after about four years, following strong performances in the domestic circuit, amassing runs in white-ball cricket.
West Indies, however, will be without Carlos Brathwaite, who will be playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League for the Delhi Daredevils. West Indies coach Stuart Law saw the opportunity of playing in India helping him work on his fitness and bowling. Chadwick Walton’s 80 runs in the T20I series were impressive enough to earn him a spot in the first two ODIs as West Indies’ reserve wicketkeeper, behind Shai Hope.
Kraigg Brathwaite was left out of the squad, while pacer Shannon Gabriel passed fitness hurdles after having strained his side during the second ODI against England. Evin Lewis, who was rather insipid against England, retained his position in the side after belting a brilliant 91 to help West Indies win the third T20I against Pakistan.
Pakistan are placed No. 8 in the ICC’s ODI rankings, while West Indies are 9th with five ranking points separating them. The last time the visitors won a bilateral ODI series outside Asia, with the exclusion of series in Zimbabwe and Ireland, was in November 2013 when they beat South Africa at home. That was when Misbah was the ODI captain, and Sarfraz was not even a part of the squad. With so much at stake, Sarfraz would want to reinforce his stamp on the side, given his insistence of wanting Pakistan to play a particular brand of cricket. That time has come.
When: April 7, 2016, 9:30 am local; 19:00 IST
Where: Providence Stadium, Guyana
What to expect: A day high on humidity with scattered showers is expected – as is the forecast for the coming week.
Team News:West Indies will be without the services of Carlos and Kraigg Brathwaite, while Evin Lewis retains his spot and Shannon Gabriel returns from injury.
For Pakistan, Kamran Akmal returns to the ODI fold after almost four years, while impressive teenage legspinner Shadab Khan finds a spot for himself in the ODI side after impressive returns in the T20Is.
Squads:West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jonathan Carter, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell, Chadwick Walton.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Asif Zakir, Babar Azam, Fahim Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz.